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What should the Redskins do at running back?

What should the Redskins do at running back?

A week ago the Redskins rushed for 230 yards against a strong Eagles defense. Matt Jones led the way, gaining 135 yards including 57 on a game-clinching long run in the last minutes of the game.

Now fast forward to today and there is widespread clamoring for Jones to be benched, perhaps permanently. Having a hand in three fumbles, two of which were lost, will do that.

The first one, for some reason, was charged to Kirk Cousins, although it appeared to be a clean handoff. Jones lost the handle but he recovered it. No harm in that play but it foreshadowed problems to come.

Later on in the first quarter the damage started. On a first and goal play from the seven Jones was fighting for extra yardage inside the five when the ball popped out and rolled into the end zone. The Lions recovered, costing the Redskins at least three and possibly seven points.

Protecting the ball when fighting for yardage is running back 101. Jones needs to retake that course.

The other fumble, in the third quarter with the Redskins driving in Lions territory, was rightfully charged to Cousins. He tripped on the foot of center Spencer Long and tried to get the handoff to Jones anyway. But the missed connections and the Lions recovered the loose ball.

You can’t can put too much of the blame on Jones, but there are plenty of running backs out there who would have reacted to the situation better and would have made an adjustment.

Jones also lost a fumble against the Ravens two weeks ago. After doing a good job of holding onto the ball all during training camp, the preseason, and the start of the regular season, an old problem (Jones lost four fumbles last year) is rearing its ugly head.

So there’s the problem. What’s the solution?

After the final turnover, Jones had just one carry. That may have been at least in part because by the time they got the ball back they were down 13-3 I the fourth quarter. But you have to think that the ball security problems had a lot to do with it.

The rest of the game was mostly the Chris Thompson show with a little bit of Robert Kelley mixed in. For the game Thompson led the team in rushing with 12 carries for 73 yards and threw in seven receptions for 40 yards. Kelley ran four times for 15 yards and he got his first career touchdown on his first career reception.

It worked, in that the Redskins had a four-point lead with 1:05 to go. It’s wasn’t enough but they put up 417 yards and got 26 first downs.

The problem is, having Thompson as your leading rusher is not sustainable. At 5-8, 195 he is not likely to be able to take the pounding if the team needs someone to carry the ball 20 times or so in consecutive games.

Maybe Kelley is the way to go. He’s 6-0, 228, better built to take the punishment. I don’t think the coaches are at the point yet where they fully trust him to handle all aspects of the job for 40+ snaps. But it’s hard to trust Jones at any point of the game right now.

It could unfold something like this: Jones sees very limited action against the Bengals and Thompson and Kelly share the load with about 10-12 carries each. Jones gets back to basics on ball handling (I haven’t seen the ball that beeps when it’s not gripped properly out a practice for a while) and eventually he gets another shot at being the prime running back.

Let’s remember that Jones has a 4.6-yard average per carry this year. That’s not great but it’s pretty good. He has some talent and he’s a worthwhile reclamation project. But I do think he needs a while to ponder the work he has to do.

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The 2018 salaries of five Redskins become fully guaranteed today

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The 2018 salaries of five Redskins become fully guaranteed today

It may be the 18th of March but today could be like Christmas for five Redskins players.

The Redskins decided to use today, four days after the start of the league year, for some contract triggers. In this case, the triggers are all 2018 salary guarantees (some teams will pay out roster bonuses on trigger dates, but the Redskins rarely use that type of structure).

Here are the players whose have guarantees that kick in today 4 p.m. All data is via Over the Cap.


CB Josh Norman, base salary of $13.5 million becomes fully guaranteed—This was a window for the Redskins to move on from Norman if they were not happy with his performance after two seasons. He is 31 and he had no interceptions last season, leaving some to wonder if the Redskins might think about releasing him. But it never was a consideration.

TE Jordan Reed, $8 million of his $8.25 million salary becomes fully guaranteed—No, I’m not sure why they are leaving that $250,000 out there non-guaranteed. Fans thought that the Redskins might move on from Reed due to his injury issues. But, as with Norman, it never was a consideration.

S D.J. Swearinger, $3 million base salary becomes fully guaranteed—This is a mere technicality, Swearinger wasn’t going anywhere after helping to solidify the safety position.


RB Chris Thompson, $1.996 million base salary becomes fully guaranteed—His rehab is going well and after last year Thompson’s two-year, $7 million contract extension signed last September looks like a good deal for the team.

DE Terrell McClain, $3.25 million base salary becomes fully guaranteed—If the Redskins sign a top free agent D-lineman or draft on early in the draft they could be in a numbers crunch. That new acquisition would be guaranteed a roster spot along with Jonathan Allen, Matt Ioannidis, Stacy McGee, and Anthony Lanier. That makes five and the Redskins kept six last year. Ziggy Hood is a favorite of the coaching staff but he has no guaranteed money left on his contract. That could tip the sixth spot in favor of McClain if he is on the roster at the close of business today. If they release McClain after today, they would take a cap charge of over $2 million. It seems unlikely that anything will happen but it’s something to keep an eye on.

Stay up to date on the Redskins. Rich Tandler covers the team 365 days a year. Like his Facebook page and follow him on Twitter @TandlerNBCS.


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Need to Know: Looking ahead—Key Redskins 2019 free agents

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Need to Know: Looking ahead—Key Redskins 2019 free agents

Here is what you need to know on this Sunday, March 18, 39 days before the NFL draft.  

Looking at next year’s free agents

There is still work that the Redskins can do in free agency and they still have some of their own players they want to retain. But with a lot of the player movement already in the books, we can take a look forward some of the key Redskin who currently are set to be free agents when the 2019 league year opens.

Note: I’m not including Brandon Scherff here because the team has a fifth-year option on him that they surely will activate before the May 2 deadline.

QB Colt McCoy (Week 1 age 32)—Lots of questions here. Will the Redskins want to keep him around for another year as Alex Smith’s backup? Or will they want a younger and cheaper backup? Will McCoy want to move on rather than back up another QB who doesn’t miss many games?

OL Ty Nsekhe (32)—The Redskins gave him a second-round restricted free agent tender this year so it’s possible that he could be gone or on a long-term contract in Washington. If he is a free agent, his value and the difficulty of retaining him could depend on if he ends the season as a reserve tackle (easy) or as a starting guard (hard).

OLB Preston Smith (25)—As we saw with Trent Murphy (three years, $21 million with up to $30 million), pass rushers get paid. Smith also makes big plays. Since Smith came into the NFL, he is the only player with at least 20 sacks, 3 interceptions, and 4 forced fumbles. If the Redskins can’t reach a deal on an extension with him this year the franchise tag is a distinct possibility.

WR Jamison Crowder (25)—This year the supply of quality receivers both as free agents and in the draft sent contract prices skyrocketing. To guard against that happening next year, the Redskin should start talking to Crowder about an extension soon.

ILB Zach Vigil (27)—As I noted here, Vigil went from being cut in September to a very valuable reserve in November. Both Zach Brown and Mason Foster will still be under contract, but the Redskin still should make an effort to retain Vigil for special teams and as a capable backup.

Other Redskins who are slated to be UFA’s next year are DL Ziggy Hood and ILB Martrell Spaight.

It’s also worth noting that WR Maurice Harris and DE Anthony Lanier will both be restricted free agents next year. Both positions were pricey in free agency this year, so both could require at least second-round tenders, which likely will increase to about $3 million in 2019.

Stay up to date on the Redskins. Rich Tandler covers the team 365 days a year. Like his Facebook page and follow him on Twitter @TandlerNBCS.

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Regarding the reported visit of defensive lineman Jonathan Hankins with the Redskins:


Days until:

—Offseason workouts begin (4/16) 29
—Training camp starts (approx. 7/26) 131
—2018 NFL season starts (9/9) 175

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